Artist of the Week - Barney Morse-Brown (Duotone)

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When it comes to writing, the hardest thing to do is actually just sit down with my cello, have any recording gear I may use to hand and start. Where do you start? How do I allow myself to run with an idea, not just discard it?

It’s been an interesting and hugely inspiring journey so far working with the Modern Fairies project and I’ve been encouraged by how much people have given of themselves creatively. I’ve not been in this type of collaborative environment before so I was understandably a little apprehensive in the lead up but as we progressed through the first weekend it was clear that everyone was willing to offer what they could to help form the foundation for our creations to be built upon.

The stand out moment for me was realising that any anxiety I felt about how ‘good’ I was or whether I had something to offer quickly vanished when we all pretty much confessed to feeling exactly the same. Seeing their vulnerability and recognising it in myself has in a way helped my creative output and given me confidence in bringing my music to the table.

So, after our Oxford weekend I left thinking about how there might be worlds all around us, a parallel universe if you will. A fairy world that you know is only there out of the corner of your eye and vanishes when you try to look straight at it. I’ve always been tuned into the otherworldly, there are times when I write that I find myself entering an otherworldly state of mind, zoning out and diving into another world for a moment. Allowing the song to envelop me.

So when it came to writing ‘Parallel Worlds’ for the Modern Fairies project, I remember slipping very quickly into a new world and finding that one hour later I had, what I felt to be a musical representation of a parallel universe. Sounds a bit nuts wring this down but I guess that’s the only way I can describe it!

Writing for yourself, starting with a seed you’ve planted, working hard to stay in the moment, keeping expectations at a realistic level.. is a tough thing to do. There are times of course when the planets align and a song falls, fully formed, straight in your lap. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, this doesn’t happen and in fact, I found that when the opposite happens and you have to chip away at a piece of granite just to make sense of a song, this process often brings greater fulfilment purely because you’ve really worked at it, stood back at looked at it from all angles, reworked and reworked until it tells you to stop.

On this occasion, I was prepared to chip away for as long as it took but ‘Parallel Worlds’ started with the first pluck and within the hour it was done. Lucky eh? Saying this, the sitting down and playing bit took an hour but I must have spent a few weeks simmering and forming the ideas in my mind so that when I did come to sit down, I had some sort of plan. I knew I wanted to incorporate my effects pedals. Doing it this way gave me the opportunity to hear the effected sound going in rather than adding effects in post.

I wanted to create a sense of walking, putting down a bass part through my Digitech Whammy pedal allowed me to get three octaves lower than middle C. Putting this down I continued to add counter melodies, playing with the timing and entry points of the upper plucked parts to give a slight sway to the rhythm. Once the top plucked part was down I added bowed melodies using a Neunaber Immerse pedal and MXR analogue delay pedal, both of which give added space and helps to widen the sound. Using the combination of both reverb and delay have become a go-to sound for me recently. It really helps to accentuate the delicacy of the tone. By adding air to the bow movement and playing on the side of the hair I can get a very breathy, feathered sound which has, over the years become my sound I guess.

Since recording 'Parallel Worlds' I have been working on two versions, one with some of the Modern Fairies project group and the other with a producer friend who’s been developing the track which is really exciting.

It’s a new thing for me to write and intentionally leave a piece relatively unfinished. It’s allowed the piece to grow in a number of directions and be adaptable to different interpretations which I’m finding to be really rewarding.

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